a weekend with Windows 7

I’m pleasantly surprised.

I downloaded the DVD ISO for the Windows 7 beta release.  For some reason, I was really excited that Microsoft was putting out Windows 7 for beta and letting the community take it for a spin.  I have enjoyed playing around with other OS releases such as Fedora and Ubuntu.

I have a Toshiba laptop that’s a year old.  It’s got an AMD Athlon X2 CPU and came with Vista on it.  When I first got it, I put Fedora on it right away.  But I did a dual boot so if I ever needed Vista, it was there.  I played around with Vista and even though I never bashed it like others did, I liked it okay.  Coming from WinXP to Vista, it was sometimes frustrating to find the apps I was looking for or to change the settings.  For the most part, I used Linux on this laptop probably 95% of the time.  So I thought this would be perfect to try out Windows 7.

Installation

Installation went really smooth and much faster than XP or my experience restoring Vista from the DVD’s that came with my laptop.  Once it was completed, I noticed that I couldn’t set my screen resolution beyond 1024 x 600 and that I didn’t have any WiFi connectivity.  Clearly I was in need of some drivers, so I plugged in an ethernet cable, got connected on my LAN and started up Windows Update.  It found nine updated, all of which were all my device drivers.

While that was downloading, I downloaded the latest drivers from ATI for my video card.  I picked my model and downloaded the Vista drivers.

Windows was also complaining about the fact I didn’t have any anti-virus installed, so I installed my favorite one, Avast!.

When everything finished installing, it of course wanted to reboot. Once it did, everything just worked.  I had Wifi and I was able to get my screen resolution to 1280 x 800.  I re-ran Windows Update and it reported that I was all up to date.

Customizing

Now, I was ready to get down to business.  So I installed my apps I typically install;

  • Firefox with Foxmarks
  • Digsby

After syncing my bookmarks, I had all my stuff that I feel is important.  I tried out IE8 and honestly, I couldn’t tell much of a difference between it and IE7.  I will say that my company’s Exchange 2007 web portal wouldn’t work with IE8.

I also made the icons tiny on the taskbar.  I felt the default taskbar took too much real estate.  I also picked a different background.

Joining my wireless networks was a breeze.  I was surprise how easy Microsoft made it.  You can pretty much click on the list of wireless networks and click on one to join.

One thing that threw me for a loop was plugging in my headphones.  Both the laptop speakers and the headphones were active.  I had to right click on the speaker in the systray and open up “Playback Devices.”  Both my headphones and the speakers were there.  I had to “Deactivate” the laptop speakers.

Windows 7 tried to make you feel good about your headphones, regardless how crappy they may be by calling them a “High Definition Audio Device.

Initial Final Thoughts

I like it.  I told someone that it was like they took the good stuff out of Vista and the good stuff out of XP and mushed them together.  It is much more inituitve than Vista and I would feel much better about upgrading from XP to Windows 7 than I ever did with Vista.

As I installed items and ran Windows Update, I got the initial “Do you want to run this…” pop up, but no where near as in frequency as I did in Vista.

I also really like some of the new apps you get.  I noticed it comes with Powershell, (which I’ve heard great things about, but never played with), and some neat process and memory management tools.

It may be an illusion but it seems that my laptop runs things faster with Windows 7 than with Vista.  I have no real benchmarks, but it sure seems that way.  I did notice that my memory consumption is very low in comparision with my XP machine.

I like how Windows 7 found all my needed drivers via Windows update.   I was worried I would have to load drivers off the OEM DVD that came with my laptop.

My battery is lasting a little longer, too.  It could be that the cooling fan isn’t coming on at all, (under Vista, hot air was blasting out, but I haven’t seen it like that yet).

I haven’t really done much but email, surfing, listening to music, but I must say that I think this is really promising.  I applaud Microsoft for releasing this out to the public for feedback and testing.

I’ll continue to do things with it and post more info.

Happy New Year!

Hey Folks! I hope you all had as nice as a New Years Eve as our family did.  It was really nice and we spent some good times with our neighbors and met a lot of nice people.  The kids had fun and even though I slept in, I feel pretty good.

Chinese TV

Today, I am going to finish helping my Chinese mother-in-law set up a Medialounge device on her TV.  You see, she bought this rather cool set top box that was a wireless media extender but was pre-programmed to go out and get Chinese content on her TV.  She would like to watch this on her TV while she did her treadmill, Lose Weight Exercise bike, etc.  She doesn’t want to watch it on her computer monitor.

We got it set up and I was pretty impressed.  I can’t read Chinese but it did look like it was going to be great.  What she found out was, they get you hooked and then literally nickel and dime you to death.  The first shows are free, then $.10, then $.50, and so on.  She sent it back, but wished we could do something else.

D-link DPG-1200

We had a family trip to our local Fry’s and we were trying to figure out how to get the Chinese content off her PC onto her TV.   Sure, Fry’s had a ton of the wireless media players, but they were expensive.  They had two open boxes for the D-Link DPG-1200.  I scanned the barcode with my Google G1 and found that the price was right but had a really hard time finding any reviews.

I brought it home to set it up and was impressed.   Now this is no original XBOX with XBMC on it, but it would do fine for our needs.

Wireless Woes

What I didn’t plan on was that her PC is hooked up wireless as well as the DPG-1200.  The DPG-1200 could get content from the Internet just fine, but watching content off of her PC sucked bad.  I’m guessing it had to do with both devices being connected to the LAN wirelessly.

So the plan is when we go over there, will run Cat5 cable through the walls.  This is always a slippery slope.

My thoughts on the Dlink DPG-1200

Honestly, I like DPG-1200, but I will admit the set up was very complex.  I don’t think the less tech savvy crowd would have hung with it as much as I did.   Additionally, there is almost zero documentation on what to expect with the device.  Someone who never had a device like this would be like, “Okay, now what?”

I can’t even tell if it supports uPNP, but that’s just me.  For my mother-in-law, I think she’ll be happy but if she didn’t have me around to help, I think she would have disappointed and frustrated.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes today.

VMware, Trixbox 2.4, and Viatalk

As I promised, I’d update more often about some of the things I’ve been working on.  In my other posts, I’ve been playing around with VMWare ESXi in my basement on an older Dell 1750.

I had a couple of goals.

  • Update my Trixbox (Asterisk) installation
  • Run SpaceWalk
  • Run ZenOSS
  • Have a linux utility box
  • Screw around and push VMWare’s ESXi until it cried for mercy

Update my Trixbox (Asterisk) installation

I still get a lot of traffic to my site since I have some detailed instructions for setting up ViaTalk with Trixbox.  Some time recently, my current server, version 2.2 stopped working reliably.  The Tin Foil hat crowd pointed their fingers at Comcast but I couldn’t buy that in my hearts of hearts.  Sure enough, ViaTalk updated some of there settings and I could get my Trixbox installation working about 50% of the time.

So, version 2.4 has come out.  So I started fresh.  All my VM’s are 2 CPU’s with 4GB RAM.  ESX|ESXi does a great job of abstracting the amount of memory so even thought the OS sees all 4GB’s, the VM is really only taking up about 150MB’s on the hypervisor; YMMV.

After screwing around (the back up and restore method DID NOT work), I finally got a “golden image.”  I got in the habit of snapshotting my VM image so I could always roll back if need be instead of suffering another complete install.

I have my VM’s to have their filesystem on the drives in the 1750, but the swap is actually served off NFS on my Freebsd box, (you might ask yourself why I did this.  Remember, I wanted to see the breaking points of the VM’s so I did some things intentionally that would create some overhead).

I got everything set up and it worked great… except on tiny thing.  Now, I have to have:

Allow Anonymous Inbound SIP Calls?
** WARNING **

Setting this to ‘yes’ will potentially allow ANYBODY to call into your Asterisk server using the SIP protocol

It should only be used if you fully understand the impact of allowing anonymous calls into your server

set to “Yes” in order to receive calls.  Otherwise, callers get “This number is not in service” when they ring our number.    It took me awhile to find this.  It’s in the General Settings.

I have to say that it is working MUCH better.   I tried to run Trixbox under Microsoft’s Virtual PC about a year ago and it sucked.   Granted, the Dell 1750 is much different than my powerful, homebuilt WinXP desktop, but I must admit that I was a little skeptical.

Even setting up my Cisco 7960 was easy.  I did have to refer to my older posts trying to remember how to unlock my phone.

The Rest… more to come…


The rest of the items I mentioned will come in other posts, otherwise I might be here all night.

T-mobile G1 / Google Android… Goodbye T-mobile Wing

A moment of thanks…

First off, I’d to thank a lot of you… most of the traffic I get to my site comes from people looking for information on the T-Mobile Wing.  I had the phone for about 1.5 years and posted all sorts of information.  Most importantly, many of you posted comments and offered help and tips to myself and others, and for that I am very thankful.

One door closes, another opens…

However, earlier in the month, my Tmobile Wing suffered a tramatic episode when all three of the children ran over it, (they were chasing eash other) and it got smooshed… really smooshed with a cracked LCD and everything.   At that point, I got “executive approval” to get a new phone.  My wife suggested an iPhone and I was about to pull the trigger until I heard that the T-mobile G1 was coming out on October 22.  I decided to wait.

The countdown…

I was all nervous on launch day, the 22nd.  I was worried I couldn’t find one and then I read that Costco and Best Buy would also be carrying them, but it was unclear when.  So after my big presentation on Wednesday moring, I drove to Costco and they had ’em.  Plus, you got a free “accessory kit” which was a Jabra bluetooth headset and a car charger.  Hey, it’s better than nothing.

Final Verdict…

I LOVE this phone.  I’m not going to rehash all the reason why I like it, there are a ton of other people who give it a thumbs up, but I am really impressed with it.  And there’s been no shortage of coverage and it looks like everyone is on the same page.

Coverage…

Over at the Download Sqaud, they have some great pieces about the first hands on with the G1 and a good post about Twitteroid, (which I haven’t installed yet since the offical release comes out Monday).

Lifehacker has a hands on post.  Gizmodo has a Android App Marathon and a category to get you going.

Walt Mossberg also seems to think the T-Mobile G1 is worthy.  Btw, Walt is awesome.

There are plenty of forums dedicated to Android/G1 coverage, and they include:

G1 for three days…

I will say that I enjoy this phone way more than my T-mobile Wing.  To be fair, I did not have a data plan with my Wing since I used Wifi with it so maybe that’s not a fair comparison.  But I do like the seemless Gmail integration.

The IM’ing on the G1 is also okay, not great.  Like all other phones I’ve owned, the default IM uses SMS for IM’ing.  I’m not big on that but I don’t it will be long before someone writes a cross IM-platform client for the G1.  Here’s a list of apps I think would be killer:

  • IM: Jabber/XMPP, AIM, Yahoo!, and MSN
  • Facebook App (using mobile web interface)
  • Brightkite App (using mobile web interface)

Apps I love:

  • Google Maps:  This is totally awesome.  You can do “street view” with the GPS and enable “compass mode.”  This is too hard to explain in text but if you see it, it will blow you away.
  • Barcode reader: Yeah, yeah… I know the iPhone has this too, but I think it is really neat.
  • Various weather apps:  All very useful
  • Gmail
  • Web browser: The web browser is better than ANY WM-base browser I’ve seen, including Opera-mini.

I’m still playing with it and rumor has it a slew of new app will hit the market place on Monday.

Expect way more to come.

vmware home project

Okay, it really isn’t a “home project”; I just like playing around with it. We’ve been really going forward with VMWare at work and I have drank the cool aide. I see the bigger picture and how it all fits into place. But I wanted to get an understanding of how it work and how it can be broken and at what point does it fall over.

The Server
I have the fortune to check out a Dell 1750 from work and bring it home and I am running VMWare ESXi.  Yes, I have a rack in my basement and a home run box so this is easy to stick in, (but man, is this thing loud.  I can hear the fans on the first floor).  It’s got dual xeon’s and 2GB of memory.   My goals are as follows:

  • Set up a Spacewalk server (the open source version of Redhat’s Satellite)
  • Run a Trixbox Image
  • Run a media server (TBD)
  • Run a dedicated MySQL server
  • Run a local WordPress installation

So I figure five different servers running CentOS would be a good proof of concept.  At this point, I thought I’d be able to post a bunch of good things about the set up, but it’s been a learning experience.  So I was able to upgrade the drives, reconfigure the RAID setup and start over.  It is my intention to post my finding and results over time. 

Yes, and in case you are wondering, I am intentionally over subscribing my VM’s to my Dell 1750.  I wanted to learn how to make it run as effeciently as possible and see how far I can push it.

Definitely… more to come. 

wherever I go, there I am…

I never really stopped to ponder how far I have come.  A lot has happened, and it happened pretty quick but it was a natural progression.  Last week, my Mac Book Pro started acting funny.  I was experiencing lock ups and it got so bad, I couldn’t get anything done.   I saw some error messages in my log files that would suggest that the drive was beginning to fail.  Fast forward to last Wednesday and I am again using my MBP with a new hard drive.

But while it was in the shop, I was still productive and busy…  and here’s how I did it.

Portable Apps

For some reason, I got a bug up my butt.  I needed a usb jump drive.  I needed one bad.  Okay, I didn’t have a really good reason when I actually bought it, but I knew in my bones I needed one.  Microcenter has a house brand of memory sticks.  I got a 4GB on for something like $12.  I installed three things on it right away.

Web Browsing

So I got portable versions of Firefox for both Mac and Windows.  I have been using My FoxMarks to sync my bookmarks between multiple browsers amongst the multiple computers I have.  It’s a great Firefox plugin so I know my latest bookmarks are with me whichever computer I am on.

Email

Email is also available for me anywhere I go.  I’ve been using IMAP forever so all I need is a configured client or even a web browser to access my email from anywhere.  So, on my portable apps, I have a configured portable version of Thunderbird.

I also use Gmail for most of my emailing so between IMAP and Gmail, I’m covered.

If you have a webhosting account, most WebHosts offer IMAP as one of the services they offer, along with a webmail version to access your email.

Chatting / IM’s / Instant Messaging

Naturally, I installed the portable version of Pidgin on my thumbdrive, but lately I’ve been using Digsby on my Windows machines.   By using one Digsby login, it has ALL my IM and social networking stuff:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

That works for me and a Mac version is rumored to come out soon.  But regardless, I am able to access all my IM contacts with ease, no matter where I’m at.

My Documents

All of these portable apps are handy, sure.  But you are probably wondering what I did to keep my most needed documents and files handy in the event I need them.

I started using Mozy to back up only my documents.  Buried on their site, you can find the free plan that allows you to back up 2GB of files.  It’s pretty handy to access my stuff online when it’s needed immediately.

Of course you can use Google Docs, but Mozy is also pretty slick.

In the end, everything worked out.  My MBP was covered by my warranty and I got a new 200GB drive out of the deal, (my original drive was 160GB).  And I was able to do a complete, 100% restore via Timemachine on my Mac.  But having that USB drive with all those portable apps helped me make it while otherwise avoiding Mac-withdrawl.

wii controller and Mac Book

First, let me apologize for not coming up with a more catchy title for this post. I’ve been overwhelmed by the information I’ve found over this weekend.  That’s no exaggeration.  Furthermore, this is all new to me so I am not up on the digitial music vernacular so it’s like learning a new language.

First, if you saw my Tweets, you would have seen how excited I was that caught wind that the Wii controllers have Bluetooth in them.  I honestly had no idea.  Additionally, there’s been a ton of super smart, talented people out there writing crazy apps (for Win, Linux, and Mac) to do all sorts of crazy things.

How this started was that I got some great comments from Andy on Bob on my Theremin post a couple of days ago.  Somehow, I got down the rabbit hole looking for ways to make a Theremin-sort-of-thing on my Mac using the Wii controllers.

I found a great amount of great resources and I got pretty darn close.  But I had to learn how to use GarageBand, play around with the Mac MIDI drivers, and put them all together and make ’em play nice.  If I understood all the terminology, this would be easier, I think.

I was playing “drums” and guitar with my Wii controller, Nunchuck, and Garageband.  That was pretty cool, I must say.  I read about WiiJ’s and other looping sort of things.  I was so excited that I jumped head first into it, trying to get it all to work.  And that’s my problem.  I got to the point where it just wasn’t making sense any more, (seriously, I’ve felt like this trying to learn a new language).

The good news, I think I got all the pieces I need and I learned a ton about the potential for the Wii remote and digital music making, not just a Theremin.   I need to digest it and put together in a way that makes sense.  This is some pretty slick stuff.

Oh, did I mention that a lot of this isn’t just for the Mac?

Definitely more to come!

Wii Loop Machine Demo from The Amazing Rolo on Vimeo.

Theremin

Holy geez, I wan to build a theremin something fierce.   I have ALWAYS been fascinated by this.  I also want to build my own RDS-TMC traffic receiver.  It can’t be that hard.  Probably the hardest part is finding the right parts.

Leon Theremin playing one.

Leon Theremin playing one.

Another b0rked WordPress upgrade

You might have seen that I had some problems with my upgrade to WP 2.6 last night.  Dreamhost, my webhosting provider, has a “one-click install/upgrade” and for whatever reason the process treated my WordPress installation as a “new” installation and changed my configs to point to an old database with a different table prefix.  It’s easy to fix but takes some time and some paying close attention.

In the process, I also found out that I needed to drop Ultimate Tag Warrior for tagging so I disabled the plugin.  I was able to import the UTW tags right into WordPress and the tags and tagging is working SO much better.

I’m going to be trying to update more often.  I’ve been really busy so I got to say about a lot of things.

R.I.P Mio, Hello TomTom

First off, let me first apologize for not posting more frequently.  I’m sorry.  I’ve been really busy with my not-so-new job, (which I love and am thankful for), but the our son is already back in school and I’ve been wrapping up some consulting gigs that I had lingering.

Having said that, you might remember that I posted that my Mio c310x died.  The touch screen stopped working.  Mio said it would cost $100 for repairs.  Honestly, that’s a tough pill to swallow so I decided that I will sell my old Mio on Ebay for parts.  I got a bunch of Mio-specific accessories.

So I was in the market for a new GPS.  My Dad had a Garmin, which was okay.  I still like the MioMap software better, so I was still looking at my options.  I didn’t really care for Bluetooth, or even Text To Speech (TTS), so I settled on the TomTom XL 330 that was on sale at Fry’s.

I’ll do a full blown review later, but the one thing that I think is really neat, is that there is both Mac and Windows TomTom software.  I have died and gone to heaven!  The first night I got my TomTom, I really messed it up.  I had to go in and delete files and restore the core OS on it, (it runs linux) and other than that, I am really happy with it.  My only beef with it, is that there is no SD slot and I am wondering what will happen when I want to install European maps on it.

I would also like to try to make my own RDS-TMC receiver for it.  I don’t think it would be too hard to make since it sounds like a slightly more complex crystal radio.

I’ll post here when I list my Mio on Ebay.  I also want to thank all of you who come here looking for Mio hacking tips and other GPS related info.  I am glad you have all found it useful.

Don’t get me wrong, if Mio had fixed my c310 I’d still be using it, but $100 is alot when I can get newer technology for just a little more and there seems to be some thing afoot that may prevent any updates to MioMap.

Thanks everyone for being patient with me.